Moments of perfection
It’s been a long and difficult year. We are all, to some extent, struggling with artifacts of the pandemic — from illnesses and deaths of friends and family, to loneliness, to loss of income, to a sense of transcendent hopelessness that weighs upon us, robbing of us joy and leaving us with existential nausea and despair.
We just completed the Thanksgiving holiday, and for many of us who followed the CDC guidelines and responsibly avoided travel and gathering with friends and family, we felt shortchanged. We missed out on traditions that combine family and food and the warmth of embrace.
For a number of years now, my wife and I have traveled on the week of the holiday to be with my daughter’s family in Minnesota. We observe the traditional Thanksgiving feast with various festivities that bring us moments of joy and reflection, and subsequently we shift into Christmas gear. This includes a trip to a tree farm where my youngest granddaughter selects the tree, and my oldest granddaughter does the honors of felling said tree. From there we trek into the town of New Ulm and each year stop by Domiers, a small German Christmas shop that specializes in handmade ornaments where each of the girls select a bauble with which to adorn the tree.
When we return to their home, the tree is put up and a flurry of activity occurs amid laughter and remembrances of Christmases past. “Grandpa,” Katherine will say, “this is the ornament I got the very first time we went to Domiers,” and Nora will ask if we like the collection of feathered bird ornaments she’s chosen over the years. And because we aren’t often in Minnesota at Christmas, the following eve, we participate in Chrisgiving — an early Christmas that has become the centerpiece of the week’s activities. Replete with Christmas carols, ribbons and bows, gifts are exchanged, as the evening is enveloped in a dreamlike shroud of family connections where old traditions are honored, and new memories are made. It is a moment of perfection.
But not so this year.
This year, our Chrisgiving event was done via Zoom, and although we spent well over an hour enjoying the virtual company of my daughter, her husband and their amazing girls, something was lacking. My youngest granddaughter, upon opening her present, turned and said to the camera, “I just want to hug you guys so much.” It was certainly better than nothing and we are quite thankful for the technological advances that keep us connected, but it wasn’t a moment of perfection.
And so I’ve been sulking a little bit this week — feeling a bit sorry for myself. I’m blessed to have as my companion, a woman of very even temperament and she has sensed my angst and has continued to help me process my feelings, while still pointing out to me the good things in life. She went to so far as to mention that while “life isn’t perfect, there are moments of perfection, even in a pandemic.”
I’ve been giving that a lot of thought these past few days, and as the days move forward, I’m finding more and more of these “moments of perfection.” There will be, of course, more times of sadness, loss and inconvenience, but I am trying to focus on the positive; on the goodness of creation; of the unconditional love I experience…
As I have focused my energies more positively, I have found a certain peace that passes my understanding, and as I reclined in our hot tub recently this past week, experiencing the contrast between the warmth of the water and the chill of the evening air, serendipity occurred.
A splash of winter sun glistened through the late afternoon clouds, illuminating the dormant fields, turning them from yellow-brown to golden splendor. Shadows eased across the barn and soon the western sky was bathed in evening hues, bright reds and subtle blues mixed in with violet and sunset orange. Geese took wing and cacophonous, un-orchestrated music filled the skies. The full moon crept into the gathering night, a glowing orb above the gnarled and ancient cottonwoods which snake their way alongside the river as it meanders through the farm. Sparkling on the timeless waters of the South Platte River, there was a luminescence, and moon shadows abounded. A heavy darkness descended and stilled the eventide, save for the plaintive howl of coyote, who sang his own song of night and then slipped quietly away in search of sustenance.
We exited the tub, experiencing the evening’s chill. Inside, the fire in the wood stove was inviting, and we reveled in the radiant heat of the hearth, the smell of wood smoke triggering a primordial and perhaps pastoral sense of security and peace. An early December day had closed, and we were thankful.
It was a moment of perfection.
I suspect that each of us has similar moments almost daily when we can experience joy and offer thanksgiving, even as the pandemic rages on. Giving homage to these moments of perfection will surely enhance our lives and the lives of those with whom we share our world.
Westfall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moments of perfection